Posted on Dec 18, 2020
In 2020, D5010 Rotary had three separate and distinct efforts to provide COVID-19 disaster relief and economic help to communities in Alaska.  Rotarians and Rotary clubs were generous in their giving and support to others less fortunate during what has proven to be one of the most significant events in our lifetimes in in the past 100 years.   Much appreciation goes to the many individuals and organizations who made it possible for D5010 Rotary to help others.  
 
When news of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Wuhan, China began, nightly news cycles in Alaska, and Rotarians began paying attention with curiosity and concern, thinking in the back of their minds, "Could this happen here in Alaska".   Not long afterwards, there were reports of an individual testing positive in the state of Washington, upon a return trip from China.  Each day there was mounting concern as the number of positive cases began to dot different places in the Lower 48 states.  During a relief flight from China back to the United States, I recall the plane made an initial stop in Anchorage, where special precautions were put in place to isolate the passengers, before they were allowed entry into the U.S. and could continue on to their next destination.  Not long after, there was a pilot from China AIrlines who was hospitalized in Anchorage when he was tested positive.  Then in San Diego and Washington state there were reports of Americans who had tested positive and had to be quarantined.
 
Soon March was upon us, and I recall there were about 100 positive cases now in Alaska.  This is about the time that Governor Dunleavy issues an emergency declaration and life changed as we know it in Alaska.  Individuals, families, workers and others were asked to "hunker down" and only leave home when necessary. Employees that were deemed essential were allowed to work, others were urged to work from home if they could.  This was about the time that I tested positive for the virus. Schools were closing and Virtual Learning became the primary means for students to continue with school.    Individuals were encouraged to observe CDC guidelines, stay at home, wash hands frequently, observe social distancing, and wear face masks.  Travel was advised only when necessary, and it became the norm to require those arriving from outside Alaska to quarantine in place for up to 14 days.
 
The Alaska economy was taking quite a hit, as businesses were coping with partial or full closures, social distancing led to layoffs of valued employees, and many businesses closed all together.  Many businesses found creative solutions to stay open and change how they would operate into Spring or early Summer. As Alaskan residents were laid off, communities in every corner of Alaska has seen sharp increases in the number of individuals and families hurting financially or wondering how they would pay their rent, their mortgage, pay for utilities, and feed their families.  Most stimulus efforts seemed inadequate.
 
D5010 Rotary leadership discussed concerns expressed by our members, and how Rotary clubs could stay engaged with their members while helping their community.  A bold proposal was made to have D5010 Rotary allocate to each of our 38 clubs a $1,000 payment to be used to help meet the needs in their community.  This was viewed as an opportunity for helping the local economy.  Each of our clubs welcomed the funds. Many clubs hosted virtual fundraisers to raise additional supplemental funds, while others used their own club budgets to further help their communities.  Imagine thirty-eight communities receiving a small infusion of immediate assistance to purchase food and meals for children, families, seniors, the homeless and disabled persons. and into the hands of Foodbanks, Soup Kitchens, Children's Pantry, etc.  Hospitals, Clinics and Schools were relieved to receive much needed funds for purchasing facemasks, face shields, thermometers,etc.  This all happened very quickly, with many communities responding with praise and affection for Rotary for this badly needed assistance.
 
In late April 2020, D5010 Rotary kicked off Rotary Cares, a statewide effort to raise $25,000 in donations from our Rotary members.  For every dollar contributed, the Rasmuson Foundation pledged to match 1:1 up to $25,000.  The Alaska Community Foundation helped us create a "donor portal" so our members could make online contributions. We achieved our goal, and combined with the Rasmuson match, we raised $50,000, making it possible for our Rotary clubs to help their community further. Much thanks goes to Diane Kaplan, President and CEO of The Rasmuson Foundation (https://www.rasmuson.org),  and  Nina Kemppel, President and CEO of the Alaska Community Foundation.  Without their help we would not have succeeded in reaching our fundraising goal.
 
D5010 used the $50,000 raised to help every community in Alaska where we have a Rotary club.  This amounted to about $1350 per club.  Each Rotary club was asked to identify which community group(s) or immediate needs the funds should be given to.  Rotary members and their neighbors expressed their gratitude for the disaster relief provided.  
 
In Spring 2020, D5010 Rotary applied for a Rotary International Disaster Relief grant.  Although we were not initially funded, we learned in late July 2020 that our district would receive one of the grants. Recently the leadership of D5010 provided input into how we would share these funds to benefit the most Alaskans.  We are proud to report that five Regional Foodbanks in Alaska (Fairbanks Community Foodbank, Foodbank of Alaska, Mat-Su Foodbank, Kenai Peninsula Foodbanks and Souteast Alaska Foodbank) have been awarded $5,000 for use toward feeding individuals and families most in need.  Foodbanks in Alaska have seen a tremendous increase in need in their regions, due to the prolonged pandemic.  Rotarians will be asked to assist these Foodbanks distribute much needed food during the holiday season.
 
It has been a pleasure to work with so many dedicated Rotarians and Rotary clubs on the above projects in 2020.  Rotarians come together, share ideas and take action.  2020 proved that Rotarians put Service Above Self, and  Rotarians will tell you joy more benefits in return when they help others in need and pursue opportunities to make their community a caring place for everyone.
 
SIncerely,
 
Andre' Layral
D5010 Past District Governor 
2019-2020